As I begin to undertake this year’s large website content refresh I’m forced again to question what it is my visitors want to see. You can pay a lot of money for a usability consultant to look at your site and then give a critique but last time we did that their suggestions were at odds with our SEO optimisation and also with what the data was telling us.
Saying that, we did implement a lot of what they suggested, as they were the experts, and we really wanted to improve our conversion rate. Looking back at it now we can say that, yes simplifying our navigation was a good thing, but we’re still going to change a lot of their suggestions for the homepage. Why? because we still need to improve our conversion rate and the last update didn’t do a good enough job.
So how do we know what our visitors want to see?
To be honest it’s a mix of a few techniques, none of which are perfect but combined they give you a pretty good direction.
- Reviewing historical analytics data to see what pages are the best converting, what paths they took to get there and what is generating the most traffic
- Also look at the negative data, which pages had the highest bounce rate (usually an indication of irrelevant content) and which had the highest volume of exits? (this needs some analysis as they may just be the natural exit pages). Also look at which pages are just not visited – there will be some and if they’re well signposted then they’re just not interested
- Take a look at competitor sites – I’m not saying copy the whole site but if you look at a cross section then you can get inspiration and see what they’re doing so you can either stand out from the crown or merge into some of your ideas
- Look at sites you know are popular and are successful online sites – for example Amazon is great for reviews and recommendations or Ebay has overhauled their shopping experience to be more user friendly
- Look at what technology is going to have an influence or your visitors viewing habits – there is a move to more handheld devices for example – how should that impact your choice of content and how you display it?
Finally go with your experience and your gut and test things – you can get a friendly group of users to have a look round your plans before you put them out there and they may have suggestions. There is no perfect answer though – so just try a few different things, measure the results and make sure you take learnings from it for next time.